Saved from suicide, advocate seeks man who pulled him from edge
Published Thursday, January 29, 2015 8:48AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 29, 2015 6:13PM EST
Mental health advocate Mark Henick struggled with depression for most of his life, attempting suicide several times, before a chance encounter with a stranger on the edge of a bridge set him on a new course. He's now asking for the public's help in locating that man.
Henick was a young teen living in Cape Breton, N.S., when he went to a bridge with the intention of taking his own life.
He told CTV's Canada AM that he doesn't remember many details about the man who approached him as he stood on the edge, except for the fact that he simply struck up a conversation.
"Suddenly I heard this voice of a man behind me, this stranger," he said.
"He didn't try to jump in and solve all my problems right away. He just stood there, talking to a kid on the edge of a bridge, like you would anywhere else in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia."
Henick said having that conversation with the stranger made him realize the power of those who go out of their way to reach out and connect with others.
That stranger ultimately did reach out and physically pull Henick off the edge of the bridge, saving his life.
But Henick said that while he stood on the brink, police set up a barricade and a small crowd gathered below. He recalls how another stranger yelled up at him to jump, calling him a "coward."
"So to have those two people in my life at that moment – that stranger who was basically pushing me over that bridge with his unkindness, and that other stranger who just by his presence, by being willing to make a connection – that's what made me realize I can be the latter person," he said. "I can be the person who reaches out."
He said he has no idea where the life-saving man came from, or what they actually talked about.
"I remember he was wearing a light brown jacket," he said. "That's all I remember."
Henick has asked friends in Cape Breton to help him track the man down, but hasn't been able to locate him. On Thursday, he turned to Twitter for help.
'This is about a community of people'
It turns out that the chance encounter marked a turning point for Henick, who now says, while it was easily the most difficult point in his life, since then it has gotten much better.
"I have such a happy and fulfilled life now. I really owe it all to that couple of minutes with that stranger," he said.
Henick now works as a mental health advocate, speaking about his struggles with depression and sharing his incredible story with others.
He said he's noticed a shift in the way we address mental health issues in Canada in recent years, with an increased willingness to speak openly about depression and other illnesses.
"I've been doing this for half my life now… and this was very different (from) when I was told in high school that we can't talk about suicide because it gives people the idea to go out and do it," he said.
Henick said an important part of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses is not just about speaking out if you think you may be suffering; it's also about speaking out if you think someone you know may be struggling.
"This isn't just about a bunch of individuals who have something happening only in their head. This is about a community of people," he said.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention has a list of resources and crisis centres across Canada for anyone who may be in need of help.